When I first decided to write on this topic I was job-less, had no potential take-up for my novel, and was juggling the risks of continuing as self-employed and penniless against returning to work and the potential of stress-city and the abandonment – or at least dilution – of my getting-published dreams. However, life is weird and wonderful and a week later I found myself in possession of a job offer and that precious and rare thing: potential agent-representation for my book.
The job-offer alone has an element of surreality. The original closing date was several months ago and the relevant department was very hard to contact when I tried to find further information. I liked the sound of the job, but the delays made it seem an unlikely option and, when I was finally invited to interview, I was so unwell on the day that I nearly cancelled. The omens did not feel good. Neither did the idea of the ‘test’ that formed part of the interview.
But life has a habit of surprising me at the moment. By filling myself with half of my medicine cabinet I managed to get through the interview without killing everyone else off, and the eye that was red and swollen as a result of infected conjunctivitis managed to stay roughly in focus. Better still, the three people who interviewed me were all lovely, with a great attitude towards the work involved, and I immediately felt that it would be good to work with them. Cue an uncomfortable weekend while I awaited the result, but on the Monday afternoon, despite an intermittent phone signal up on the moor above Two Dales, I got the call that told me I had been successful.
The next day, whilst immersed in DBS forms and ‘pre-employment’ Occupational Health questionnaires, an email pinged into my inbox from the agent who had previously requested to read the whole manuscript of my book. Now for those of you who are not writerly types a lesson in book-selling etiquette might be appropriate. There are several ‘rules’ involved:
1. Publishers, especially big ones, don’t like to do the leg-work of sifting through zillions of submissions and prefer to only look at books that have been suggested by an agent, who will hopefully have done the sifting for them.
2. Trying to get an agent also involves a submissions process, and getting one is like finding gold-dust in the River Trent.
3. Nowadays you are expected to have a certain level of online presence and interaction to show you can engage with an audience, even if you don’t intend to publish your work yourself.
4. God-forbid that you try self-publication if your aspirations are remotely literary – if it doesn’t fit a genre where people might take a punt on an unknown author (crime, romance, et al) then sales are also as unlikely as finding gold-dust in the River Trent.
5. If an agent replies with anything more than complete silence or a one-line ‘this is not for us’ email, then that means you are generally going in the right direction.
6. If an agent asks for the whole manuscript (having seen a synopsis and so many thousand words) then that is cause for a minor heart attack – or at least angina – and a long breath-holding wait while they find time to read it and let you know if they are willing to represent you.
Like the wait for the job interview, it had taken a while for the agent to un-bury herself from the huge pile of manuscripts that are an agent’s lot and finally get to mine. And, given the delay, her email simply asked if I still wanted her to look at my work. Did I still want her to look at my work? Of course I did! Cue another uncomfortable wait until ‘the end of the week’ when she’d promised to get back to me. And, true to her word, she did.
The email pinged in. The agent’s name pinged up. I waited to read the ‘I’m sorry…’ bit, but instead there was ‘I think this is a wonderful book and would love to talk to you about representation.’ Wow! Now, a few days on, we have talked at length on the telephone and a client agreement has wended its way for my perusal. We seem to get on well and to be on the same wavelength, and I am thrilled to find someone whose approach and experience I can trust and who believes in my work.
So, once I settle down after the shock, I have to regroup and apply myself to two parallel paths of part-time employed work and writing. The crossroads seem to have dissolved and I have ended up on a dual-carriageway instead!
Doing a Model Railway day at a local church hall with dad. He and the under fives were at one in their interest and wonderment. It felt completely surreal – like I’d moved back in time and we’d swapped parent and child roles.
Ditto, above! Plus dad’s enjoyment of his birthday treats and cake – 92 years young!
© Anne de Gruchy